Take it Easy! (XXL)

Designer: Peter Burley

Artist: Alexander Strohmaier, Steve Tolley,Franz Vohwinkel, Thomas Weiss

Publisher: FX Schmid

Yeah, I will take it easy…. if I win!

Take it Easy is one of those games that is more and activity than a game. It is a true multi-player solitaire that an unlimited number of players can participate. All players have their own board and pieces and a number is called out and every player will pick up the same exact piece to be placed on their board. It is how the piece is placed on the board and scored at the end of the game that drives the game. Yeah, if it sounds like a version of bingo, well, it kinda is. That doesn’t mean that the game is pure luck, because it is not.

Take it Easy XXL comes with 8 boards and the accompanying tiles so that as many as 8 players can participate. That is a huge plus given that few games can take on 8 people at once. Tiles are hexagonal in shape with three criss-crossing stripes printed on each tile. In total, there are 9 different types of stripes, with each type being identified by a unique value from 1-9. Thankfully, each stripe with a value also comes with a unique color and pattern, which helps folks who are color blind differentiate between the types. The object of the game is quite simple: place the tile anywhere on the board such that similar stripes connect from edge to edge and score points at the end of the game. Tiles that form the stripe must be unbroken from one end to the other for them to score any points. Of course, the challenge here is that there are 3 stripes on each tile, you will have a very hard time ensuring that all stripes in each tile always line up in a way that will score points for all stripes. So, a judgement call must be made on deciding where to place the tile to maximize scoring. Presumably, the higher value stripes, like the “9s” will be favored because points are scored based on multiplying the number of tiles on each completed stripe with the value on the tile. So for example, if there is a row of 5 tiles in the middle with a line of unbroken “9s”, then you will score 45 points for that stripe. This is easier said than done when you don’t really know the sequence in which the tiles come out and there are more tiles (27) than there are slots to place them (19).

The way tiles are revealed, each round, one player will flip over a tile and announce the values printed on the tile. All other participants must search for the exact tile and place them on the board. Of course, players get to choose where to place the tile and each board should develop independently to provide the variety in scoring.

Unlike bingo, there is something in Take it Easy beyond just pure dumb luck in placement. Players will quickly recognize that a row of 5 tiles with “9s” will take priority over “1s” for scoring. Moreover, the hexagonal array on the board will mean that some rows will take 3 tiles to complete, while others will take 5. The initial urge would be to make sure that the longer rows are filled with high-scoring stripes, but this needs to be balanced with the fact that the shorter rows are easier to complete. However, much will depend on how the tiles come out during game play and of course, luck does play an important part in winning. I find the biggest thrill for the game comes from a tile that fits perfectly on the board to match all 3 stripes that are actively being constructed. The sudden burst of pleasure is pretty clear.

One way that Take it Easy requires more skill, is that players can see from their remaining tiles, the likelihood of a specific tile with the desired stripe being selected. Based on what is available, one can make some quick mental calculations on whether specific stripes should be sacrificed in order to pick ones that are more likely to be completed – even though they are lower scoring ones. So, if you need a “7” and only one remaining tile has that stripe, you might be better to complete the “4”s just because there are 3 tiles left with them.

I hesitate to say that Take it Easy is a brilliant design even though lots of people love the game. It is ok, but just too multi-player solitaire for me to enjoy this consistently. It is not something I would pull out often to play, but it is there to be included in a rotation of games that fill a short evening. Now, that doesn’t mean the game is not brilliant for someone else because I am aware that solitaire games or roll-and-write games just isn’t in my wheel house. So my review and rating of this game reflects my ambivalence.

The fact is that there are other games in this genre that I enjoy more. Karuba for instance, by Rudiger Dorn, shares a similar DNA to Take it Easy!. I find that infinitely more exciting and satisfying than Take it Easy even though I admit Take it Easy has less chrome – a design choice that I usually embrace. Perhaps for bingo-like games, I just need a little something more to spruce it up. Karuba adds just enough to make it a better choice for me as there is a race component to the game. Same goes for Rise of Augustus, a bingo-like tile pulling game that is further away in game play from Take it Easy. I like that one as well. There is slightly more strategy behind game play in Rise of Augustus. All told, Take it Easy XXL is good, but not great in my book. But don’t let that deter you from picking up and trying the game.

Additional notes: Having played Karuba back-to-back with Take it Easy!, I walk back my comments that Karuba is the better game. They are distinctly different despite sharing the core mechanism. Karuba is made by HABA and is more forgiving and playing it has made me appreciate Take it Easy! for the harder choices. This does not make Karuba a bad game, but it does make it more suitable for younger kids. The angst in tile placement is clearly a notch higher in Take it Easy! You can refer to my impressions of Karuba, but both games are different and I have come to appreciate elements in both these games.

Initial impression: Average

Kids Corner

7 years 9 months: Kid took to it quickly. The game is easy enough to teach and she has no issues absorbing the few bits of rules. After losing the first two games, she won the third and the game is now her current “favorite”. Boy, she sure is in Cult of the New. Which means we are playing a lot of Take it Easy! which is fine by me. I enjoy the activity pretty much every time I play, but she enjoys games where she has a fighting chance of winning and this one, she is pretty decent at. The game is short, which is a plus and because there is a tableau and no conflict, it is a good weekday game. I personally like Karuba, which I will pull it out this weekend. Get it! Take it Easy is suitable for kids of all ages.

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